With all the accolades Black Swan has been receiving lately, I had an urge to revisit The Red Shoes over the weekend. For those that have not yet seen this masterpiece of early Technicolor, you must see it! It is the story of Victoria Page, an aspiring prima ballerina from an aristocratic family; Boris Lermontov, the brilliant, cold and demanding director of the Ballet Lermontov; and Julian Craster, a young, gifted composer. Victoria and Julian both join the Ballet Lermontov on the same day, and eventually Lermontov comes to realize and acknowledge their remarkable abilities – he promotes Victoria to prima ballerina and asks Julian to write the ballet of the Red Shoes.
Based on a fairy tale by Hans Anderson, the ballet tells the story of a girl who buys a pair of beautiful red shoes to wear to a dance. She dances at the party and has a wonderful time, but when she tires and attempts to rest, the shoes will not let her rest nor can she take them off. She dances and dances and dances, through lands near and far, until she ultimately dies. At that time, the red shoes can finally be taken off.
Of course, the script, primarily written by Emeric Pressburger, is also marvelous. The script works on multiple levels. But the one point I should mention for right now is the conflict of interests between the trio of Vicky, Lermontov and Craster. Craster loves Vicky, and Vicky loves Craster. He loves her as a person; he wants her soul. But Lermontov loves her as a perfect, physical embodiment of his sacred devotion to the ballet. Since Lermontov is a homosexual, he wants her body not out of sexual lust, but through the knowledge that he knows no one else can wear the red shoes in his greatest creation, led by his greatest discovery, Vicky. And this is the decision that Vicky must make: whether she wants to continue to wear the red shoes, or continue her romance with Craster. It literally becomes a life or death decision.